Thought Leadership

S&T Live Recap: PRSA Chair Michelle Egan on the Trends, Challenges and Opportunities in the Year Ahead

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Michelle Egan, APR, Fellow PRSA, PRSA’s 2023 chair, joined Strategies & Tactics Live on Jan. 19 to talk about trends, challenges and opportunities for communicators in the New Year. Egan joined the livestream from Anchorage, Alaska, where she is chief communications officer of the Alyeska Pipeline Service Company.

“We’re all really paying attention to AI and some of the opportunities that it can provide, and the ways it might make our work more streamlined,” Egan told John Elsasser, editor-in-chief of PRSA’s award-winning Strategies & Tactics newspaper and host of S&T Live. “But also, what some of the challenges are with AI.”

ChatGPT, an artificial intelligence program that can write long, seemingly authoritative responses to human questions, “has been all over my feed, and so I’ve been thinking quite a bit about that,” Egan said. “As an organization, we need to be focused on what the ethics issues are.”

But as communications professionals, “I don’t think we need to be afraid of [ChatGPT],” she said. “We shouldn’t have our focus on whether it’s going to take away jobs. It should be about what is in this technology that can be helpful to us. Let us put our focus on the things that we do best — the strategy and the counseling.”

Elsasser asked about other challenges facing the PR profession in 2023.

Citing what she called “a challenge and an opportunity,” Egan said PR professionals have just come through a period when they were central to decision-making in organizations regarding issues such as COVID, racial injustice and DE&I. “We saw a lot of C-suite leaders looking to us for help with those issues — not just for communications in a reactive way, but for strategies to move the business forward.

“I think we have an opportunity to capitalize on that momentum,” she said. “We don’t always do a great job of selling the value of PR and what we do. But we have that opportunity now.”

Recession, layoffs and protecting careers

“We definitely see instability in the economy and that is going to lead to organizations tightening their belts and some layoffs,” Egan said. “Communicators can prepare themselves for that. What’s the best way to manage your stakeholders, your employees, with your leadership team that’s respectful of the business but also respectful of the people involved?”

In response to Elsasser’s question about how communicators can protect their careers from recession, Egan said, “The obvious answer is investing in your own professional development. I have used PRSA’s Certificate Programs over the years, even during the advanced part of my career.”

Another way to prepare for recession and layoffs is by building your community, she said. “And again, PRSA is a great way to do that. This is a community of communications professionals, a community that really stands by each other. Reach out and get to know the people around you.”

Perhaps most important: “Give yourself credit,” she said. “Be aware of your own skill set and talent. You’re not dependent on any one employer for your future.”

You can watch the playback on LinkedIn.

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